When we speak about keeping your child safe it’s usually followed by online. But, keeping them safe covers far more than just online safety, particularly when it comes to smart phones.
WhatsApp can seem like a great and free way for your child to communicate with their friends and family. As long as they’re connected to the Wi-Fi or the phone’s data pack, they can send and receive messages for free, saving on costly airtime bills. But, the app also gives users the ability to create groups, send pictures, videos and voice notes.
At first you may think your child creating or having access to a group with their friends is a fun and social way for them to keep in touch.
But did you know that you can delete messages within the thread?
Did you also know that you can then screenshot the messages left and re send them to the group? What better way to highlight what someone has said and hide others.
The group facility can sometimes be a breeding ground for bullying and confrontation. Add to that the ability for the admin to add and remove members at will and block them and it can lead to huge unrest, anxiety and social exclusion.
Before allowing your child to use WhatsApp, make sure you’re familiar with the settings, how to back up chats so you’ll always have a log and to make your child aware of the dangers and what to do if they feel they’re being bullied or in a tricky situation.
If your child has to walk to school or from the bus, you can install a family tracking app which will show all members of the family where you are. This is a great way to help keep your child safe, but obviously shouldn’t be totally relied upon.
Within these software packages there’s also often the chance to add parental controls, which will protect your child from seeing or downloading content they shouldn’t.
If your child’s phone has access to an app store, make sure you set up a two-step verification and password protected space, which means that no app can be downloaded without the password being entered. This also protects them from downloading paid for apps or making in app purchases.
It’s also advisable to check if the app comes with inbuilt adverts. Chances are, most free apps will and sometimes these will be age appropriate. Even apps like Talking Angela or Dragon City can have dating app adverts. Worryingly, so can some security apps, so make sure you check the credentials and whether it says it includes adverts. If it does, it may be worth paying for the version without adverts which is usually around £1.99, but will mean you can control what your child sees.
For further advice download an Internet Matters checklist or download the app on your phone first, test it, work out the features and then make an informed decision on whether it’s right for your child.